Close the biggest gap of all -- fighting AIDS and TB together will fast track our global response to ending the TB and HIV epidemics by 2030

01 December 2014 - Paris, France - Nelson Mandela used to say that we cannot win the battle against AIDS if we do not also fight TB, adding that TB is also too often a death sentence for people with AIDS. On this World AIDS Day -- more than at any other given time -- I want that to be the reminder to the global community.

I write to you today from Paris as we stand in solidarity with the AIDS community at large on this important day. Mayors, city representatives, development partners and NGOs have come together to launch an innovative new initiative to end the AIDS epidemic in cities. This bold new declaration in fast-tracking the HIV and TB response in cities is a major step forward to leapfrog our efforts in ending all new HIV infections and avert AIDS-related deaths, including deaths caused by TB. It was a historic moment as we stood together in front of these two diseases. It was a historic moment as we decided to hold hands, not only with the traditional partners, but we reached out to less traditional partners -- mayors of cities, governors, politicians -- with one purpose -- to ensure that all those in need will get the proper diagnosis and treatment and care for HIV and TB. And to show that it is possible to defeat these two diseases, starting with cities.

I find it ironic and frustrating that all the advances made in diagnosis and treating HIV/AIDS can be jeopardized by a disease like TB which is curable, yet remains the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, with an estimated 25% of all HIV deaths due to TB in 2013. An estimated 1.1 million of the 9 million people who developed TB worldwide were HIV-positive in 2013 and co-infection rates were as high as 74% in some countries from the African Region. But I have hope and confidence that we can see the end of TB and HIV.

Increased political commitment and smarter investments, together with more strategic programming and massive reductions in the cost of treatment have led to a record 13.6 million people in low- and middle-income countries having access to antiretroviral therapy by the middle of 2014. TB-related deaths in people living with HIV have fallen by 36% in the last ten years. Reaching this milestone would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, and is testament to the immense global effort and impressive new science that has emerged, particularly in the last decade. But there is still so much to do.

And more than anything we need speed in implementing our efforts, speed in integrating our work, speed in delivery, speed in reaching out to those that are vulnerable, and speed in saving lives.

Every day we wait, it translates into a 1000 people with HIV that die because of TB -- no one can afford this and no one can and should accept this!

Every World AIDS Day brings us closer to an AIDS-free generation and this is awesome news for the fight against TB. By continuing our work, strong proactive political leadership, better governance and continued joint efforts to reduce inequalities, we will have a world with zero new HIV and TB infections, zero stigma and discrimination, and zero deaths from AIDS and TB.